California Health Report: The iPad Therapist: Mental Health for the Aging

By Matt Perry

Davis Park stands in front of 11 older adult residents of the Los Angeles independent living facility Good Shepherd Manor – all but one of them African-American – and asks what they know about technology.

“How many of you know what videoconferencing is?”

One hand rises.

How many know how to use a computer? Three hands rise. How many want to know how to use a computer? More hands go up.

Head of the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, Park is visiting the modest facility’s dining room to kick off a cutting-edge behavioral health pilot program aimed directly at low-income, minority populations: telemental health.

By offering computer-based therapy sessions, telemental health has a promising future for older ethnic adults who face an uphill battle accessing services for common problems like depression and anxiety.

Some seniors have trouble simply getting transportation to visit a doctor or counselor. Others face the stigma of mental health treatment. Add the barriers of language, culture and race, and seeing a therapist can become a nearly impossible task.

“We know this is an important issue among low-income communities,” says Park. “There tends to be less access to social services and mental health services.”

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  • LAAAC is managed by St. Barnabas Senior Services; Funded, in part, by Archstone Foundation.
  • St. Barnabas Senior Services

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